After applying for the graduate entrance, CFY, and for every job after this step, you can expect an interview and matriculating process to ensue. You may wonder what to expect and what tactics to use. If you haven’t yet mastered the interview, I help out with that in my book: Tattletales of a Speech Language Pathologist. Essentially, I just have to say… bring YOU. You already have everything you need to hold this sucker down, you just need a little flair and a lot of confidence.
Confidence doesn’t equate to acting like a hot shot or that you know everything you in fact, do not. I’ve been unafraid to say “I don’t know” at interviews. Most times, I stated that under a certain circumstance, I can expect to do blank blank blank; however, I understand that there may be other ways to handle such a situation. A hot shot doesn’t leave room open for guidance and is likely not that teachable; there’s no worse trait for an employee. Rather than deal their cards at the risk of what the heck you could turn out to be – hey, maybe you are a great therapist – it’s safer to take someone who knows nothing, and who they can mold.
Tangentially, take care to making promises that you can’t keep up with. Whether it’s something that requires a skill, or something that requires too much of your time, any unmet promises reflect poorly on you and may even jeopardize your position or your license. For instance, in response to “Would you be comfortable working a 60 hour week every week for 52 weeks of the year?” you should not say yes because you want the job. Say no and explain that although your work is very meaningful to you, you also value balance so that you can bring your very best self to work every day. You may be willing to negotiate scheduling and paid time off to satisfy a need that the company has, but it would not be possible or reasonable to make that commitment. The fear of having a company choose another candidate is STRONG, I feel it every time. It’s professional FOMO. I actually have this weird way of immediately saying “I accept…” and experiencing a weird chill of regret right after. The truth is that it’s extremely helpful to have the time to consider how a new position may uproot other plans or commitments you may have. Even if I had thought about it before, having the job offer in hand changes things. At times, I’ve followed up with …”unofficially” and stuttered my way through whatever excuse I could use to delay the process. I might have said I would like to ask a few more questions or see the facility. Don’t be like Suleika. Take the time to be sure.
Lately, it’s been the case that most interview processes start off with the interviewer answering many questions I hadn’t even thought to ask yet. I could tell they loved my resume because they seemed to be trying to impress me in return by telling me all the wonderful reasons I should work with them. Alternatively, I also had an interview that started off with the interviewer warning me about how hard a position might be to obtain or keep, as the nature of the work was very stressful.
One shouldn’t expect that the interview will be hard or worthy of an anxious breakdown just prior. It’s not an exam. Still, to impress an interviewer, there are some things one should prepare to be questioned about and ready to respond to.
Sometimes, but not often enough, I was asked why I was the right person for the job. To best answer this question, it’s important to know the ideals of the workplace and about the activities that are most beneficial for the population you’ll be servicing. It is a personality question, as well as knowledge-based one. There is no specific right answer, but one surefire way to let an interviewer know that you are wrong for it is to use some generalized list of traits about yourself or to not have any idea of what your clients will need from you.
I was never asked what my feelings were towards my then current position, why I was ready to leave it, or how I was sure this position would be any different. I might have had an answer ready for these sometimes, but even then, I imagined that the interviewer would have seen right through me or devalued whatever answer I gave. It was a personal issue of self-confidence and anxiety, really. Do yourself one better than I did and shoo those feelings. Your interviewer knows that there is a reason you are looking for a better opportunity. If asked, perhaps honesty is the best policy, but what if your reason for leaving is your fault or makes you look bad? My Tattletales advice could be to restructure and retell the story in your own favor, but there is a positive outcome of retelling your mistakes and what you’ve learned. The interviewer will see a person who is not only teachable, but seeks understanding and resolution when mistakes are made… and we all know they will be!
While I received at least one dysphagia therapy or evaluation question during the interview, I was never asked actual speech modality therapy questions. I was certainly never given anything such as outlining a therapeutic plan on the spot, and to date I can recall being given one single case study question. I mean, I really thought the PRAXIS was going to come back to haunt me each time, and it didn’t. That’s not a reason not to stay prepared. A little research may go a long way in your interview, and even if you still aren’t sure of the answer, you have more to share than the person who didn’t even think to get a quick blurb from Google.
I was asked other questions I wasn’t ready for, but somehow killed with great responses that surprised even me. They were questions that made me reflect on why I decided to serve a certain population in the first place, and I recalled what my biggest challenges were in a certain setting or with an individual client. They were questions that, when I answered, I reassured myself I was making the right move. Interviewers liked me because they saw I brought myself and my passion to the interview, aside from just a little bit of knowledge.
After all, the interview is a two-way street. Interviewers know what they are looking for. It could be just a body to put in a position, and you’ll know that when they ask checkbox questions and do not use the time to get to know you or have a conversation. Alternatively, they could be looking for someone to set a new course of things around a system that is developing, and this really allows you to bring your experience, ideas, and charm. Your personality leads this interview.
For someone early on in the field, it is most important to keep in mind what you are looking to achieve, rather than to bank on what you feel you’ve already achieved. The truth is, there are plenty more experienced professionals applying who are well qualified, who may still not necessarily be a better candidate than you, for any variety of reasons.
Give yourself the benefit of the doubt, and grasp opportunity barehanded by the horns. You deserve all those that come charging at you blindly, and will learn to balance them with those that you seek out and diligently pursue. Come with YOU first, and everything else will follow.